Clutter Free Gift Ideas for Preschoolers, School Aged Kids, Teenagers and College Kids
“The best gift is your precious time. They grow up too fast.” – from Lincoln, Nebraska
Thank-you members! You have created the ultimate list for what to give grandchildren and children for the holidays! This list will keep your home and their home clutter and chaos free.
“PLEASE not one more stuffed animal. I am desperately trying to let go of the 4 boxes of animals I have left from my own childhood. I am decluttering slowly and trying to let the guilt of parting with these items go as well. This is not something I want to saddle my children with.” – from Michigan
“As I am still reeling in shock over my mother-in-law’s sudden passing this week, I have decided to ask all of the people who are close to my children to pick a favorite book and read it on tape to my children. Our house is not in need of one more ounce of plastic in the form of toys. I think this will be a great way to introduce my dd’s 16 mos and 4 yrs to various books and be able to remember a distant aunt, godparent or grandparent.”
- Read aloud a favorite children’s book onto a tape and give the tape to the child. They love to listen over and over again.
- My DH’s wonderful parents buy a zoo membership good for one year for our family (5-yr-old DS, 3-yr-old DD, almost 2-yr-old DS). This is a fantastic clutter-free gift that we love…it’s convenient, it’s educational, and it’s great exercise. What a great way to teach and show kids the variety of God’s incredible creation! If you are not near a zoo, check into memberships at science centers, children’s museums, etc. Most places have information on their website (including membership applications) that you can email forward to your relatives to make their “shopping” easier. This kind of gift is win-win…your relatives don’t have to leave their home and fight holiday crowds to buy your family a gift, and you receive a gift that your family can use over and over again!
- Savings Bonds. My son allready has a healthy nest egg of savings bonds. When his great-grandparents are gone, I will be able to show him how very often they thought of him – and were looking forward to his future. & By the time they mature, he should be “mature” enough to use them well – maybe for a down payment on a home someday!!
- Consumeable gifts – maybe cookies of the month from Grandma, sidewalk chalk, crayons, paper, etc.. One of the greatest gifts I ever received was from a poor neighbor who filled a box full of misc. pipecleaners, glitter, glue and craft scraps. My brother and I spent months making projects together – and when it was all done there wasn’t anything “left” either.
- Our local community college offers mommy & me classes from age 8 weeks to kindergarten. These classes are not expensive ($70 or so for 8 weeks) and are a great opportunity to introduce little ones to music or art or dance, etc. It also offers a chance for mommy to talk to people who use more than 2 word sentences!A less expensive alternative is to offer to take Cherub for a while an play with them in a park! I don’t know if this counts as a gift to MOM or to Cherub LOL. My mom takes DD to feed the ducks. DD loves the ducks and has such a wonderful time. This is the best gift that she could get (in my opinion). Toddlers don’t need tons of toys, they need attention! The gift of time spent with others besides the primary caretaker is so beneficial to Cherub because they are broadening their horizons. What a wonderful gift to give!
- For my nephew’s third birthday,I made him an ABC album.I took all the extra pictures I had of him and incorporated it into a 5×7 album.I used my extra cardstock scraps and stickers that I hadn’t used in ages.I guess you could say I boogied them into his little album.Each letter page had a picture of him and stickers(the letter “A” had a picture of him with two of his sisters who have “A” names and apple and airplane stickers).It’s now his most loved treasure and my scrapbook area is neater. Flying in TN
- A gift that preschoolers really like is unadorned sugar cookies, icing and sprinkles! They can decorate the cookies themselves and enjoy with their family! Also fun bubble bath and foam soap. Check with their moms first to see if they are allergic to anything in the soaps.
- One of the longest lasting Christmas gifts I gave to my 3 and 5 year old girls was a suitcase of dress-up clothes, beads, and high heel shoes from yard sales. Since I only found one decently priced wedding dress, I made a second one with satin from my wedding dress. The girls and their friends were still playing with dress-up clothes, plus additional dresses from yard sales, at 10 and 12 years of age.
- My favorite clutter-free gifts for my children have been: membership to the local children’s museum, gymnastics classes, music classes, and swimming lessons. I have had the membership given to all of my children as a Christmas gift, and I have had all or part of tuition given to them specifically for the classes. They really enjoy the activities, and I wouldn’t be able to afford them all without some “help.” – from New York
- Puppet washclothes
- I think that this idea will work well for all ages of children. My husband and I have decided that our little ones (aged 3.5 and 1) already have too much “stuff”. We have already asked the grandparents if, for Christmas this year, they would consider giving them “experiences”. This can either be enrolling them in a parent and tot class or a class like painting or pottery that they can take by themselves (for older kids); putting money towards sports lessons or taking them to a concert. It could also be simply taking them to the museum or swimming or for a walk. We really feel that the children benefit so much more from the time spent with them than with the ph enomenal number of toys they receive. We feel so strongly about this that for Christmas this year, we bought our family of four a year long pass to the local swimming pool/fitness centre (they were on sale in August) so that we can take the kids swimming anytime and we can go to the gym as well.
- My children received a great gift one year: a membership to our local Children’s Museum. We loved going and not worrying about the cost. It was also wonderful not to add to their piles of stuff at the holidays.
- Gifts for infants are really gifts for parents, right? I plan to get a load of pampers and baby wipes (plus some nice small relaxing bathsoak or chocolate for the parents themselves). England Flychick
- Hi – Our children are 3 1/2 years and 15 months old. One of the best things we ever did for our family was buy a “zoo pass”. The children love it! We can go anytime of the year as much as we like. We live about 1 1/2 hours from the zoo, but we still have more than paid for the pass. We love to go in the winter. It is so much fun walking in the snow and seeing the animals that are out. It is usually almost empty of other people and it is a super way to spend a Saturday afternoon.The 2nd thing we did was buy a National Parks and Monuments pass. Once again, it has paid for itself several times over. We have looked at season passes to aquariums, museums, zoos, amusement parks, water slides, etc. These make super non-clutter gifts for the whole family for the whole year! – Flying at the zoo in Utah!
- For my nephew’s first birthday I took pictures of all the immediate family members – including mom and dad. Then I put them together into a small children’s photo brag book that I found for a $1 at the Dollar Tree. He carried this book with him everywhere he went for the next two or three months. The pictures were taken with a digital camera – so it wasn’t as if the pictures were lost if he did get them wet. You could do the same thing with color copies.
- Books! A board book sized MY FIRST WORD book carried in the diaper bag came in handy on many occasions – my dd loved it! Any kind of book is great, my dd’s love anything by Rosemary Wells [Mother Goose and BUNNY CAKES are special favorites], ZIN! ZIN! ZIN! A VIOLIN, Richard Scarry [excellent - each page is loaded with images so dear to baby minds], the Spot and Kipper series, Toot and Puddle, GOOD NIGHT MOON, Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter – there are so many WONDERFUL books to read to babies and parents should have a variety to liven things up. Or even a gift certificate to a book store for a new mom – it will get her out of the house and let her make the selection.
- This is for the presents after they have been wrapped. Last Christmas, my DD 2 and 4 asked me numerous times a day who the presents were for. We would sit under the tree and look at them all. After several days passed I had an inspiration! I pulled out all those photo doubles and started cutting out faces to match the names on the presents. The girls LOVED IT. They especially loved getting to pass out the presents on Christmas morning. I’m planning to do it again this year! – Flybaby in Florida
- A great gift a friend gave was “A Day at ______’s House.” This included one full day for my preschooler to spend at her friend’s house – morning play, lunch, movie & popcorn, and then our families were reunited for dinner made by my friend and her husband. It was a great gift to receive and it’s a lot of fun to plan for a friend…and it’s so easy to do when you’re FLYing!!!! – Trinity, FL
- A couple of ideas… An exercise class (if appropriate for the person). At our community center there are two exercise classes where you can bring your baby (up to 12mths) to the gym with you.The babies stay in the gym with you so you can tend to them if needed. Or the babies can socialize with each other. They are once a week and inexpensive. One class is yoga and the other is called Bopping with Babies – a mix of aerobic, weights and floor exercises all geared to the new mother. Both classes incorporate the babies into part of the exercises. I have been going since my daughter was 2 mths old and I have to say if I didn’t I wouldn’t be exercising! They usually start at noon or 1pm.Also check at your local community centers for programs for youngsters like motoring munchkins ( 6mths to 5 years old), music groups etc. The gift of the classes or a book of tickets for the drop in programs like motoring munchkins is great and inexpensive. In pur community a book of tickets for 10 visits is $22.00. The side benefit is that you get to socialize with other moms. In Canada, paid maternity leave is one year so there are lots of programs aimed at youngsters. A flybaby in New Westminster, B.C.
- Instead of getting the usual “adorable outfits” for baby showers, I buy a small tree and put a simple bow around it. It’s something that will grow with them and Mom and Dad can later reflect on how big the tree and their child has gotten. -Flappin’ in Midland, MI
- I wanted my preschooler to be able to present her classmates and friends with a Christmas gift that she made herself. She loves “I Spy” books, so we worked together to make “I Spy” placemats last year. We clipped a wide assortment of pictures from magazines, found inexpensive stickers, and used Internet clip art as a resource, as well. Then I let my daughter go wild with a clear gluestick and large sheets of paper, creating collages with all of the little pictures. After she made the collages, I wrote a simple “I Spy” rhyming riddle to go with each one, similar to those in the book series. We printed the riddles and glued them onto the collage papers. After that, all I had to do was laminate the large papers to turn them into personalized placemats. My daughter was very proud to tell her friends that she made them herself. – learning to FLY in Connecticut
- I am going to buy some of my favorite books and make a tape of me reading them (including a bell or ding to cue the page turning). This is great from grandparents and relatives who live far away. – North Easton, MA
- We loved our year’s membership to the Science Center and the Zoo. You can usually get a family membership good for unlimited entrance for a year! We also have a Living History Farms open air museum, but any museum would be a great idea not only for preschoolers, but also elementary and older kids as well. – Flybaby in Iowa
- Little people think that you are the best gift they can ever have. Spend time with them. Get down on your hands and knees, at their level and do puzzles, play with their cars, colour with them, play house, take them to the park or a special place. We have three children ages 2, 4 and 6. Nothing beats one on one time doing their favourite activities or taking them to their favorite spots.
- Hi. I would love for my preschooler to receive gifts that include cheap craft supplies. Little things that can be glued onto a paper bag (glitter, feathers, scraps of yarn, fabric), some paper bagss, a tube of glue, all wrapped in a bow. It translates into something consumeable as well as a time filler for me! Also good: socks.
- My kids love to get “mail”. They gloat over a piece of junk mail. They would simply love a magazine geared to them–Highlights, Ranger Rick, Ladybug. . . These are things that Mom and Dad are sometimes just to short on cash to provide. I wish a certain Grandma that I know would lay off the expensive Dolls and Bears that are too fragile to play with and go for one of these items. They would be remembered everytime the mail is delivered and once tattered they can be tossed guiltlessly! – Flybaby in TX with toddlers
“May seem basic, but each of my children will be getting their very own timer for Christmas. They love mine. Hopefully peace will reign when I don’t have to go search mine out or wait to use it. LOL. We’ll all be dancing and singing to the chimes of the timers. Talk about the bells of Christmas!” – Beep Beep Beeping along in High Ridge, MO
“When my daughter turned 5 this year, I just dreaded the thought of getting even more toys and presents that she didn’t need or wouldn’t use. I suggested to everyone that we give her a “Gift certificate” party. It was great. She didn’t mind opening envelopes instead of packages. Thanks to all the thoughful people at her party we have been able to spend many evening at the movie theatre, she got a hair cut, ate out at her favorite restaurant, got free passes for the swimming pool, got to take an art class and a swimming class. She has enjoyed at these things so much more than she would have a bunch of toys that she really didn’t need. I will definately suggest gift certificates for my other daughter’s birthday and Christmas gifts.” – a FlyBaby
- This year I would love it if my parents and MIL gave my children money toward a college fund. Most kids today get so many toys at Christmas (and their birthdays) that it sometimes becomes like a feeding frenzy! What a valuable gift to receive a share of “G & G stock” (Grandma & Grandpa) that fiscally savvy grandparents could manage and teach the children about saving. A savings bond or simply a deposit to the college fund would do the same thing. Many states have education savings plans that have a nominal initial investment. The children probably won’t miss another toy, but will be quite thankful for a helping hand for school expenses. Flybaby in GA
- Last Christmas we received a terrific clutter-free gift that has kept on giving. It was a year’s family membership to our local science center. It has given us many hours of fun, educational time together. We even had my ds’s birthday there!
- My favorite gift to give school age kids …. or for my kids to recieve from friends….has become art / craft and bath supplies! Journals and unique pens, colored pencils and oil pastels w/ sketch pads, sewing/ building kits that actually make a usable item like a storage box, scarf, hat, gloves, purse, birdhouse / feeder,In the bath section things like fancy shampoos / conditioners, soaps / gels, lotions, perfumes / cologne, bath fizzies and tints. All this stuff encourages my child to slow down and relax, or slow down and think and create….and when they are through….there’s little or no clutter to store! Flying with 4 under 10 thus numerous little friend gift lists
- This would probably work for older children too. Last year for Christmas, instead of getting our 8 year-old triplet nephews toys they would only play with for a little while anyway or clothes that they wouldn’t appreciate, dh (the perfect uncle!) gave each boy a “ticket” to a Pacers game with their uncle. They each got to pick which home game they wanted to go to and they also each had to pick a different game so that it would be individual time with uncle, too. He made the “tickets” on the computer and I wrapped each one separately, then we had the boys open them all at the same time. They were so excited, and I know they got more enjoyment out of their date with uncle than they would have gotten from any toy or game.
- A gift I would appreciate for my school age son, and I am sure he would love it, is a pass to the zoo, or some other local attraction. Zoo passes cost less than amusement parks, are usually good for the entire year and can often be used at zoos across the country. It would even make a good family gift. Our yearly zoo membership is about $50 for a family of four.
- Having 2 school age kids myself (8 & 9), I know how the Holidays can take over a house. It takes weeks to find a place for all the new toys the good hearted relatives give the kids. A few years ago, I started asking family members to give my boys “activity gifts” for the Holidays. When someone would ask what they wanted for Christmas, I suggested a movie gift certificate, a gift card for an upcoming sports event or concert, or even money for a “special event” (which wasn’t already planned) during an upcoming family vacation.This has really helped to reduce the clutter in our home and spread out the joy of the Holidays many weeks. It has also allowed our boys to do more. – Just starting to fly in WI
- For school age kids–I say “Get out of the house and DO something with them!” Buy gifts that promote FAMILY ACTIVITY. But remember that you will have to get gear for yourself too so you can take the kids and enjoy being together! This can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you want depending on the sport you choose. How about hiking? Get Jimmy new hiking shoes and some trail maps–then head out with him. Santa should leave trail mix in the stockings. How about swimming? Get new suits and goggles and a YMCA pass. Surfing, raquetball, kite flying, longboarding, snowshoeing, etc. The options are endless.Think: What sport or activity will MY family enjoy doing together? Then get the stuff that you need and wrap it up and then GO DO IT! You may want to consider renting or borrowing expensive equipment before you purchase it so you can see if the sport or activity works for your family before you lay out the money. After all, it is junk if it sits around and you don’t USE it! Our family enjoys skiing. This year for Christmas our children will each get a new snowboard or a pair of skiis and our family will get a Season Pass to a local resort. I’m hoping that although Santa will fill the stockings (with useful non-junk items like lip balm, sunscreen and favorite candy) that this will be IT for the shopping. And instead of opening junk presents on Christmas day–we will be packing up the car to go skiing. With the Season Pass gift, we can use the lift to ski, hike or mountain bike all year. Pick an activity that works for YOUR family. Get the stuff that you need for the activity. Then go have fun together. – Flying and Skiing in Utah
- I have seven children. Last year I gave them all a new comforter and threw the old ones away. This year they are each getting two fluffy pillows and we will fling the old ones.I am also planning on stuffing their sock with fruit and a little candy. I used to stuff them with toys from the dollar store, only to have to fling them later. Last year I asked their grandmother to give them each two packages of socks. I then flung ALL of their old ones. She is planning on doing this every year from now on. I am asking their other grandmother for a one year family pass to the zoo and science museum.
- Instead of giving them “stuff” how about signing them up for a class or activity they’ve been interested in ie gymnastics or horse back riding…something that will bless their heart along with their intellect and won’t collect dust. – from MI
- Magazine Subscription. My son received a sub. to “Ranger Rick”. Instead of having a moment of excitement opening it, he gets the thrill of looking for it in the mail each month. He loves it! The trick – purge the magazines after he has gotten them “all read up” and bless someone else with them!
- So many people don’t realize that just after the New Year, the second term of school begins for kids. A great clutter free gift is school supplies! They are consumable and by halfway through the year, most kids need more.What I am doing for my cousins (age 10 & 6) is to go to the Dollar Store and buy packs of pencils, erasers, folders, notebook paper, etc as well as a few tiny holiday themed items and put them in a stocking. This means that there is no wrapping paper to buy and for $20 per child (my personal spending limit) they can have a TON of stuff. Most kids get new clothes and supplies in September but school supplies are something that are used all year round. Also, charities like project angel tree and such request school supplies too. What I’ve done in the past is buy dupes of everything like school supplies and pick a child’s name and buy the one or two items that they want “santa” to bring and add in the school supplies. This is a blessing to kids in foster care and low income families. You can donate supplies to schools as well and the teachers will distribute them to the kids in their classes who need them.
- This year we plan to give a “family gift” to some extended family members. We usually buy a combined gift for the parents and a gift for each of the two children. We don’t see these people very often and really don’t know what they have or don’t have (but haven’t had the courage to say let’s stop exchanging). So, this year we are giving a clutter free family gift of a family pass to their local zoo. It will cost less than we probably would have spent individually and will at least not accumulate clutter if they don’t use it. Flying in Arkansas
- As the only grandchild on both sides, my soon-to-turn-12-year old son has more stuff than he knows what to do with. We’re working on it at my house (his dad and I share custody) so I hate to give him another birthday gift that he doesn’t need or even really want and that’ll clutter up his room.So this year, for his birthday, I’m taking him on a special “mom and son” trip. Since I’ve newly remarried and he’s had to adjust to having not only a stepfather but two stepbrothers I thought the gift of my time and an adventure just for us would be the very best gift of all. We live about 5 hours from Chicago, so we’ve gotten cheap plane fare and we’re splurging on a nice hotel complete with a pool.
- We have 3 ds’s. We give the gift of a date. One on one time alone with one of our 3 ds’s. My husband will take one of the boys golfing or to do some other guy stuff that I have no clue what it’s all about. I’ll take them shopping for clothes or whatever they need. ALONE just the two of us. We have lunch and talk. We focus on their needs for the day. (No mom looking at girl stuff!) Give the gift of a date with your child. BTW-I always find it’s a gift for me too
- I have a neice who has EVERYTHING>>>REALLY…so it’s no fun to shop for her, cause you’re just adding to the collection…So last year, my mother & I joined forces and treated her to a trip to the beauty salon…she had her nails, toes, and hair done…she’s quite the girly girl and loves to be “made-up”… SHE LOVED IT! And with this gift, you’re giving the gift of time (because you should be the one take the recipient to the salon…so you’re not giving mom one more thing to do) AND telling her it’s ok to love herself. flingin’ the love and keepin’ some for myself…Nashville
- A disposable camera & a gift card in the amount to get it developed-it’s inexpensive and kids love to take pictures.
- Hi, This Christmas, we are painting my 13 year old DD’s bedroom as her present. The rest of her presents are the accessories that go with the new paint job such as a bulletin board for her wall, a pretty mirror abover her dresser, a new valance for her window that matches her bedspread, etc. She gets to pick out the colors and designs for everything. Even though she will know what she’s going to get, she’s very excited. I’m excited about the lack of additional clutter this present provides. She’ll get 1-2 more presents that will be a surprise, but they won’t add to the clutter which we will remove from her room when it’s painted. Also, when we put her things back into her room, the clutter will not return.Thank you for your encouragement and support as I babystep my way to a comfortable, uncluttered home. – Flying in Missouri
- Like many others, money is a little tight so we don’t get to go out very often. It costs more each time it seems because the girls are growing. My girls LOVE to get “gift certificates” for things like an ice cream cone, icee, hamburger, etc. I am so glad that they still appreciate little things. – in CO
- Last Christmas I gave my 3 young nephews(ages 4, 5, 6) a certificate saying that they were invited to a Safari overnight party at my house in January. I had explained to the parents beforehand that I was trying to give non-material gifts this year. The boys weren’t overly excited upon opening the gift but they sure enjoyed the overnight party! We ate camping food (hotdogs, etc.) and each one got a flashlight to go on our after-dark neighbourhood walk, looking for wild animals. They just happened to each find a small toy animal (I had previously hidden) while we were on our safari. We had bedtime stories around my living fireplace (our campfire) and they all slept in sleeping bags on the carpet.
- My mother came up with a way to bless a 5 year old little girl who is very dear to our family. She found out that this little girl worries about all of the children in the world who don’t have enough to eat and so came up with the idea to sponser a child in need in the little girls name instead of adding to the clutter this coming Christmas! Flying in Canada
- Check out your local YMCA or community center and see what classes they offer for children–art, basketball, volleyball, drama, swimming,etc. This year, instead of giving our daughter “stuff” for her fourth birthday, we gave gave her swimming lessons instead. I have never seen my daughter happier than when she was at her lessons. Swim passes to the local pool also make great clutter-free gifts that keep on giving and encourages fun physical activity–something lacking in a lot of our kids’ lifestyles today.
- My ideas have always been met with the approval of my niece and nephews – if I don’t have time or resources to actually fully make a gift, which I often do whenever I can, I will think up how to combine a “gift certificate” with a corresponding small gift – for example, for my nephew one year, I gave him some tools for his tool box and invited him and his siblings to my house to build something like a shelf or toy. But often, the gift certificate is the only gift. For example, one year for my niece who loves horses, I gave her and her brothers a certificate to the local riding stable and ice cream afterward. But I do often fully make a gift, like one year I made them each a sleeping roll from my old flannel blankets, and another year I made them a wooden, stand-up puppet theatre so they could re-use a lot of their own stuff making puppets, etc.I guess one key part is that the gift certificates are “consumables” since they usually don’t mean a lot of items being added to the toy cupboard or whatever. I don’t even buy the certificates … I make them myself and then just take the kids on the day and pay for it then and there. And as often as I can when I am making a gift, I re-use something I have around the house. – Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
- Framing a child’s artwork makes them feel so proud. I have used small photo frames and cropped artwork and also large frames for the wall. It is not only clutter free, but also free because we all usually have a frame or two that we are not using!
- We are lucky enough to live close to the Mall of America and Camp Snoopy – an indoor amusement park. The best gift my two grade school kids got last year was an annual pass to Camp Snoopy. We visit to celebrate good report cards, birthdays and for family night “just because”. We’ve been known to sneak there for an hour if the girls have finished their homework quickly on a school night.The passes have more than paid for themselves in the last year and the girls (6 and 10) both know that we can go for an hour and that there will be plenty of other times to come back. (read: no whining when we have to leave.) I would recommend to anyone with grade school kids try an annual pass to the zoo, science museum, amusement park, what ever your family enjoys. It’s worked wonders for our girls and best of all – no clutter!
- Last year for Christmas I gave my 2 dd’s (9 & 12) a “Spa Day with Mom” – we got our hair trimmed, had a “girly” lunch, then had our nails done (the salon gave me a discount when I explained what I was doing). Both girls enjoyed it so much they have asked for the same thing this year! For my ds (6) we had a “Movie Day with Mom” – he got to pick the movie and where we had lunch. Long after their other gifts were forgotten, they were still talking about their day with me. – West, Texas (yes – the town name is West)
- Our granddaughter is part of an after school program where she stays until her Mom can pick her up at 5:30. One of the things this program offers is cheerleading lessons and karate lessons during the after school time, once a week. We are giving our granddaughter cheerleading lessons for a month and karate lessons for a month instead of more dolls, books, stuffed animals and “stuff” to clutter up her little life and little room with. Flygranny in GA
- For Christmas this year one of the gifts my children wil receive will be smell good stuff — bath soap, shampoo, purfumes, lip gloss, powder, etc. I have to buy these items anyway, but I don’t always splurge on the more expensive brands or the cute character bottles, so it will be a treat to get special things for bath and grooming. It may be a few extra bottles in the bath cabinet, but it will be fun to shop for the extra special stuff that isn’t our everyday items. And I think they’ll like the pampering , too. I’m even doing the same for my neighbor’s little girl for her birthday — I’m not adding more clutter to her room.
- One of the most successful gifts we have given to my children’s elementary school aged friends is the one my daughter received from a friend of hers: A book light and gift card to a local book store to pick out a new book. The kids love shopping for themselves, and books are a wonderful gift, plus the booklight has been used many times, especially for long car rides which strech into the evening. Flybaby in Massachusetts
- My almost 11 year old daughter LOVES to be taken on a “date” for her Birthday! Out for a movie, dinner, shopping for a new book (that can later be donated to her school Library!) and one of those special “Mall” cookies/pretzels and a hot chocolate!!
- Recently my daughter’s best friend had a birthday. We were delighted at what we found for her. At the local “mart” store we found a box like thing that is a clipboard. We filled it with paper, colored pencils, crayons and water colors. She was THRILLED! My daughter asked if I’d pick her up the same thing (don’t tell her, it’s wrapped and in my closet for Christmas!) Kids love to do art projects- having it in it’s own spot that the child can carry to the TV or in the car keeps messes to a minimum!
- One of the best presents I ever made for a family of small boys was a gingerbread castle. Their eyes were so huge when I gave it to them, like they couldn’t believe their luck! Their parents were thrilled, because they knew how much time had gone into it. And it was all completely gone within a matter of days. – a flybaby form Sydney Australia
- Dear FlyCrew, This idea would work for almost any age, really. We did this last Christmas for my DD, who was then 11 and wanted (and needed) some improvements made to her bedroom. After taking the initiative to declutter her space, and keeping it that way, it was time to make it a beautiful place for her to be and dream, but we really couldn’t afford to do it all at once. So, for Christmas, we made up a coupon book on the computer that divided up the redecorating into babysteps! For instance, the first one said, “This coupon good for new bedding worth up to $50. Expires when you find just what you like!” The next one said, “This coupon good for new paint in the color of your choice.” The next coupons were for curtains, pillows, accent rug, pictures to hang on the walls, and even a new door. We stipulated that only one coupon could be used in a month, and that they had to be used pretty much in order. Not only was this easy on our budget, but it was a great relationship-builder as we spent time together with our DD planning, shopping, painting, and enjoying the results! Now as the holidays approach again, she has a beautiful purple room (always been her favorite color) that is truly a place of peace and dreaming that all started with babysteps. This year, we’re going to give our house the same gift, and bless each decluttered room with a fresh look a bit at a time. Thanks so much for all you do to help us learn to help ourselves! Flying day by day in CA
- I live in Ontario, Canada, we have an indoor/outdoor open all year round kids play place called the Wild Zone. They have rides, lazer tag, bowling, go karts, putt putt golf, huge soft play area (these all take tickets from a book), and a huge arcade area that uses tokens (1 token=1 quarter). Last christmas I gas each kid (including the teens) a ticket book and $20 worth of tokens. NO CLUTTER in my house and they LOVED it. We were able to go serveral times as a family and they had fun. They asked if I would do that again this year! Definately will be a repeat! – flying in Canada
- Give students the gift of tickets to local theatre or musical performances. Our city has an arts council that provides quality stage performances for our kids. A season ticket for one child is $30, so for those of us with three, exposing kids to “culture” becomes an expensive endeavor. Thanks for this ideas forum! Mississippi flybaby
- We have two children and a tiny home. I have been very specific with my family and friends this year (in a polite way, of course) about the kinds of gifts to give my kids for Christmas and birthdays (my DD’s b-day is the end of October). My mother has decided to adopt animals from our local zoo for their Christmas gifts this year. Each child chose their favorite animal and they get updates and pictures and I promised to take them to see their new adoptees, particularly if we get the zoo membership I also requested. Other great gift ideas are memberships to museums and the like, gift cards to movies and restaurants, savings bonds and contributions to college funds (check with your state about this.) I never would have thought to do this were it not for finding Flylady. Thank you so much ladies, for the fab ideas and inspiration. Unfurling my wings in Chicago
- My DS 7 got a gift card to the local bowling alley as a birthday present. He loved being able to take a few friends out for a fun activity. I liked the fact that the gift was consumable, nothing to dust or find a place for and most of all, it was FUN! flybaby in UT
- This isn’t 100% clutter-free, but gifts like working models, robot kits, working car kits, &, etc., can do triple duty, if your children like to make things. They spend time making the toy, and playing with it, and, my kids are always so proud of toys that they build themselves, they take special care of them.
- This could apply to any age really. For those who play musical instruments how about consumables used on those instruments. For woodwind players this could be reeds ( find out make an strength used ), a more comfortable neck strap for larger instruments or a new mouthpiece for both woodwind and brass instruments ( often those supplied with instruments aren’t as good as ones sold separately and can make a big difference to the tone ). For string players how about spare strings. For younger players there are music books available which come with backing cds and are great fun to play to and can provide much needed inspiration if they are flagging with their practice.
- My 7 yo DD was thrilled to receive a home made gift certificate from a friend for her birthday recently. The gift was an evening out with her friend for pizza and a movie. I plan on using this idea for future birthdays and Christmas, changing the outing to suit the interests of the child. No more cheap plastic toys from us! Fluttering in Abbotsford, BC
- This year Santa is bringing our family, with children ages 8, 6, and 1, a 2 day trip to a hotel a few hours away that has an indoor water park. This is a special treat that our budget would not allow, but a great thing to use our Christmas budget on. Family togetherness without adding to the toy pile!
- We have 5 children ages 8 & under, and they’re the only grandchildren on both sides, so our house gets overwhelmed very easily at birthdays and Christmas. Two gift ideas we implemented in the last year were huge hits with the kids and the grownups. One grandma got my 6 & 8yr old girls tickets to the local childrens theater to watch a play. They got a “date night” with Grandma: got all dressed up, went out to eat, and to the play. They loved it! The other grandma gave them summer camp for their summer-time birthdays. She works at a camp & they thought it was neat to see Grandma in addition to having a campout experience. They want it again for their birthdays next year. Clutter free gifts, and best of all, it’s memories that both the girls & grandmas will cherish for a long time!! —Flytoddler in Iowa
- My daughter is a teen now, but she has told me that some of the presents she liked the very best while growing up were the ones that didn’t cost very much money or were things/objects . In many countries in Europe we have the custom of Advent calendars- usually paper boards with little windows numbered 1-24 to help children keep count how many days till Christmas Eve, i.e. how many nights to sleep and so on. Some of these calendars now have little chocolates, one per day. I think thes are now popular in the USA also. At least I know they can be found in NE metro areas.ANYWAY…I used to make my own Advent calendar and in each box there was either a sweet, a cookie or a “gift certificate” and some of these I want to share with you:
-A 3 hour visit to the Zoo
- renting a video and making popcorn and having a movie night just with Mom in Mom’s bed.
- a Sunday afternoon making gingerbread men.
-choosing which restaurant family goes out to next time. ( writing a choice of 5 is recommended)
- putting on make-up on each other for one weekend afternoon.
-making crazy hairdo#s on each other
-choice of what we will eat for breakfast or brunch. One weeks warning to parent recommended. ( she chose cookies and ice-cream)
-2 hours of painting with Mom ( we painted wrapping paper!)
-3 x 1 extra hour of television “certificates” ( I wrote an expire date of a year…she never cashed any of them in!)
-3 x 1 hour of computer game “certificates”
2 x 1 hour at the mall where she gets to decide which shops we window shop in… and i follow her.
2 x sleepover weekends ( friend can stay over Friday and Saturday night)
1 afternoon we do a craft of her choice, (where nothing new has to be bought.)
1 hour sewing on the sewing machine…without any comment from adult ( she thought this was soooo funny)
1 weekend afternoon at a museum of her choice and we follow her.
1 weekend afternoon we play board game (s) of her choice.
There were many such things. I cannot remember them all, but you can see they all have to do with time spent doing things together and also in letting her have some say in decision processes. In the “gift certificates” I usually had some comment requiring advance notice –due to other unforeseen conflicting events– By the time she was 10 or 11, she knew to ask to cash in the vouchers only after consulting with us. I hope these ideas will spurn other parents to do similar things. Time flies by so quickly! Oh one more thing! do remember to take photographs when you do these events! and foremost try to ignore the sly comments you might get when they first read what they get, most kids will cash in their gift certificates even if they first say “big deal” sarcastically. -
Flybaby in Austria
- Hi! I just thought of a favourite gift my aunt gave my children last holiday. She made them a gift basket filled with yougurt tubes, applesauce cups, granola bars, juice boxes, cheese strings,… and then tied a fancy pencil to a new pair of snazzy socks and tucked that into the middle! They saved some of the snacks for school lunches, but were also thrilled to eat them during the holidays – they were still a treat, since the individually packaged stuff is usually for lunches only – but were a good alternative from the sugary treats everybody was bringing over!
- Dear Flylady and group. I have three children who will be turning 3,4,&7 between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, 3 birthdays just days before Christmas, you can imagine all the toys we would be inundated with. One year, I boxed up half of thier presents and took them out in the summer when they got bored with the ones they got to keep open.Last year, my DH and I decided we did not want to be swamped with toy clutter again. For thier birthdays we bought the kids an aquarium. We bought the tank, the heater, filter system to make it work. Then thier party guests were encouraged to help us fill the aquarium. Guests bought gravel, plants, a ship wreck, and fish. Now we have this beautiful aquarium we enjoy everyday. The kids have responsibility of feeding the fish. We are going with a theme this year again too. My oldest is now a Cub scout, so we are encouraging our friends and family to buy us camping supplies in lieu of toys. Things we can use year after year for the upcoming camping trips. No more toys that are forgotten in 2 days.
“Gift cards!!! Inspired by you last year, I gave my DSs, 11 and 13, 52 movie passes each and a Blockbuster gift card each. In comparing Pre-FACE costs with this year, I actually have saved money on their recreational activities, they have seen every new age appropriate movie as it comes out, they have played every new game as it has come out on their PSII, I have had almost every Saturday night to go out with the girls and my pre- Chirstmas toy fling was only 1 medium size garbage bag, as opposed to 4 leaf bags last year. In addition, they actually requested that I do the same thing this year, as I did not have to say “no” once this past year due to lack of funds for a new movie or game. Thank you all…you have changed all of our lives….” – Single mom flybaby in GA
“Last Christmas my son really didn’t fit into either the child or teen category for gifts. He didn’t really want toys anymore and he didn’t want what many teens want, such as CD’s or sports related items. So I created a gift that has kept going all year. I made a card for each month of the year with a promise for something fun for that month. Here are some of the things I included: family bowling night, family bike ride, trip to book store to choose one book and then have a snack at the snack bar there, trip to an amusement park he always wanted to go to, family game night, picnic in the park, etc. I try to match the event with the season. He opens his card on the first of the month and he really looks forward to it, plus it makes lovely memories.”
- We have 3 ds’s. We give the gift of a date. One on one time ALONE with ONE of our 3 ds’s. My DH will take one of the boys golfing or to do some other guy stuff that I have no clue what it’s all about. I’ll take them shopping for clothes or whatever they need. ALONE just the two of us. We have lunch and talk. We focus on their needs for the day. (No mom looking at girl stuff!)Some other date ideas we’ve done (keeping in mind with only 1 parent and 1 child) when they were younger. We set a date to:
Prepare a holiday food item together (for which they get the credit and the bragging rights at meal time)
Batting practice at the park
Dates make good stocking stuffers. We just write the date and activity on a note card.
- My 3 nephews, all 17 yrs old, like to receive gift certificates from an Auto store. There are several national chains so I try to purchase certificates from these stores. They have purchased everything from steering wheel covers to a case of oil. I always get a kick out of hearing how I “saved the day” when the power steering went out or the wind shield wiper fell apart during a torrential rain storm. Texas
- Of course, the best gift this year is the Girlfriends Lifeline Calendar . I gave one to my daughter- just starting high school, she rolled her eyes at me until she opened the calendar and started reading all the fun tips. Before I knew it she had stickers everywhere she needed them. Best of all, she updates it without MY reminders.I also gave a college bound freshman the “Junior Franny Pack with Lanyard ” with a mini-control journal for her to for her to fill in and some of your wonderful instructions on how to get started with everything plus a link to your website. As I was putting it together, my DH asked me what I was doing. I told him it was a journal to help her remember to do all the things Mom usually nags her about! He thought that was a great idea! Thanks, Flylady and Co. for a smooth start to the school year!!!
- I plan on giving my two teenage cousins gift certificates for spa services. They deserve to be pampered too, and there’s no clutter! In the past, when they were “‘tweens” My annual birthday gift to them was a day out with me (they are 13 and 15 years younger, so I’m old enough to be the grown up and young enough to be cooler than their parents) where we would window shop, go places they wouldn’t normally see (pretend we were tourists at local points of interest, etc.), and I would buy them a small souvenir.
- I give the teenagers on my list gift certificates to either the movies, the mall or to the gas station (Gas Gift Certificates are usually only available during the holiday season). They appreciate the thought and have get the enjoyment of shopping, watching a movie, or having a full tank of gas. I have also been known to give gift certificates to the Music Store, some of the teens play an instrument and are able to purchase sheet music, CD’s, etc. or I have given gift certificates to the craft store for teens who paint or do other crafts. This allows the teens to choose what they really need and I don’t have to guess. NJ
- For my college-age niece, a collection of keep-a-cold-at-bay supplies: zinc lozenges, packets of vitamin C powder, instant chicken soup, etc. & a file card of reminders of how/when to use(“take at first throat tickle, etc.”). Can put these in a plastic lidded tub or one of those goodlooking photo boxes.
- Pre-paid phone cards for college students.
- Teenagers are often short on money yet have many things they want to do that cost money. Find something that special teen loves to do, and give them that gift. Some examples are lessons (music, dance, sports, theatre etc). Depending on their interstests give an annual membership to a gym or the Arts, movie tickets, gift certificates to their favorite restaurant, and most teens would LOVE a gift certificate to get some new clothes. (Offer to pick up their old clothes & bring them to Good Will!) A very fun idea is to take the teen for a makeover followed by updating thier wardrobe with new classics and tossing the old.
- For my daughter’s 13th birthday, I set up an appointment for her at a local beauty salon to get her makeup done and to have a makeup lesson. The appointment is not until next month, but hopefully, she’ll love the gift and no clutter! – a Flybaby in PA
- I send gift certificates to fast food restaurants to my faraway nieces and nephews. They use them, and I don’t have to package and ship gifts.
- Clutter free teen gifts? The very best teen gift we know about is a gift certificate to our local pizza parlor (a really superb little small town pizza joint!) Combine that with either a pair of passes to the local movie house or… even better, our local theatre sells books of 6 passes for $30. (at $5 a ticket, that’s a good price!) No clutter, and VERY popular!
- This isn’t exactly a holiday gift, but when I was in high school and collage, my wonderful Queen-of-my-Universe Grandmother would send me plain postcards with her address already written on it and a stamp already on it. All I had to do was write a few lines to her and maybe draw her a cartoon and put it out for the postman. I know she loved hearing from me and it couldn’t be any easier for me to write to her! This idea could work with anyone that you want to hear more from! New Flyer in Cincinnati, OH
- Last Christmas we gave our college-student daughter a six-month supply of the disposable contact lenses she uses. She hates her glasses, but couldn’t find the money in her budget to keep up her contact lens habit! To “jazz” the gift up a bit, I bought a small case (available in the vision department of Wal-Mart where I bought the contact lenses) for her purse or backpack that had room in it for one set of contact lenses and a small vial of solution. She loved the gift!
- Last year for my 12-year-old son we bought a “5-pack,” or 5 day, ski pass to a ski area that is a 90-minute drive from our home (the closest ski area we could find!) Because I had a new baby, my husband and son went one day in January, and then in early March the three of us went together (therefore using all 5 days on the pass.) By purchasing the pass before Christmas, we saved over the regular price for 5 days of skiing. It was a great way for us to spend some time alone with our son away from the little ones, and it was definitely clutter-free. This year we are going to try for the same thing, perhaps at another ski area just for a change.
- A stock or bond in a favorite company, or a savings bond.
- All teenagers LOVE the ultimate gift – MONEY (or its equivalent)! My son always enjoyed getting gift certificates from clothing and record stores, but this meant he’d bring home more “stuff” from those places! So I started giving him “consumables” — movie tickets, certificates to restaurants, sporting event tickets, concert tickets, and so on. (Be sure to get TWO or more so he can take a friend.) Two of his favorites were tickets to see Bill Cosby and STOMP. If he has his own car, get him a pre-paid gas card or a gift certificate for an oil change. Fledgling in Shreveport
- Mall gift certificates! Better than a certificate to a specific store, in case there is nothing in that store that they want. They can also use the certificate to buy something for someone else, if they want to. Also good for ‘tweenies.’ Certificates for an evening at the movies are also good, and don’t result in more clothes on the floor. – Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Here goes for teenagers:
1.. membership in AAA or similar roadside assistance plan
2.. long distance calling card
3.. gift certificate to his/her favorite clothing store
4.. gift certificate to book/music/electronics store
5.. gift certificate to Bath and Body Works or similar store
6.. gift certificate for manicure
7.. gift certificate for pedicure
8.. gift certificate for haircut at favorite place
9.. gift certificate at a sporting goods store
10.. gift certificate to his/her favorite shoe store
11.. gift certificate to craft supply store
12.. craft supply box to store materials in
13.. take teenager to crafting class if they’re interested in learning something new
14.. tickets to sports event
15.. tickets to concert
16.. spend a day with him/her doing something away from the house that is fun
- I think this idea can be in the teenager part : My niece is now 17 yo and last summer, she began to work, I mean “really work” with wages and so on, during the vacations. She study cooking so she works almost all summer long in restaurants and so on… Now that I’m 31 yo, I know that (well, that’s this way in France) you have to keep all the papers about your former jobs, especially the sheets you get every month (or week) with your wages on. And I thought it would be a good and motivating idea to offer to teenagers who have just begun to work a 3-ring binder (a nice one, and solid) to put these papers. It’s useful, it’s a way to get organized, and then, it’s a way to say “way to go, you will be the best cooker, I know it !”. – France
- I just had another idea. My daughter (17 tomorrow – can’t believe it) loves to take disposable cameras to concerts. That way she doesn’t have to worry about losing her good camera in all the confusion. Also film would be a good idea for those who like to take pictures. Trying to Fly in Michigan
- A journal jar and a pretty journal and pen. Journal jar’s are great for getting people started writing. Fill one with questions about past events, future plans, current ideas and watch the kids take off! Flyinfant in Utah
- Teenage boys and fast food go hand in hand. I always put a few of his favorite fast food gift certificates in his stocking. My son is now in the Navy and he especially enjoyed being able to use his gift certificates on the base. A nice break from the mess deck! – Flying in VA Beach,
- Lately, I’ve been opting for gift certificates of various kinds for the teenagers in my life. For driving aged teenagers I give gas station pre-paid cards–they like it and so do their parents because the car actually gets refilled. I’ve also given video store gift certificates, for movie or game rentals.Last year all of the aunts and uncles pooled their gift money together and bought the teenagers of the family 50 shares of a telecom company. Not only did they appreciate the gift, its value has tripled since then. – Flybaby in Holland Landing
- AAA or other auto club membership for teens that are driving. No more worrying about them being stuck at the side of the road and not able to get help.
- When my son turned 16, I gave him a handmade “coupon book.” Individual coupons included the following:
1. $10 anytime you need it
2. A batch of cookies (give 1-day notice, please)
3. A hug from Mom, redeemable anytime
4. 30-minute extension on curfew on Friday or Saturday night
5. Dinner at a restaurant, your choice
6. One game of chess with Mom
7. Another game of chess with Mom
8. $20 to take a friend to the movies
9. Pizza – your choice of toppings
10. 2 video rentals, your choice
11. Your favorite home-cooked meal (give 1-day notice, please)
12. 3-hour use of the family car to go to the mall to hang out
13. Shopping trip to Dallas with overnight stay
14. One “no chores weekend” coupon
There are lots of options when doing the coupons, and many of them occurred more than once. He used them all that year! Shreveport, Louisiana
- Donation to a charitable campaign in their honor (especially if their name will be permanently recognized in a public place such as a museum or sports arena or school)
- A season pass to the local sports center, ski slope, skating rink, any place that offers physical activity in which the child is interested.Music, voice, art, dance lessons. Tickets for movies, concerts, plays.
- For that hard-to-buy-for teen, I like to fix up a gift bag with gift certificates for movie rentals, a couple of bags of microwave popcorn, candybars, and a bottle of soda. Teens love this and of course, all the items are consumable, so there’s no clutter. Flybaby E. from Illinois
- I tuck gift certificates from places like the bowling alley, movie theater, gas station, restaurants or fast food places, the diner where they hang out with their friends, etc., in my teenage (and now young adult) sons’ stockings each Christmas. They’re always grateful to have them when they’re low on cash, but want to hang out with their friends or go somewhere with their girlfriends. Fluttering in Lebanon, PA
- This Christmas I’m preparing a recipe box (I’m buying the box and the index cards, and printing out the recipes) with family favorites and quick simple recipes for my 13, 14 and 17 year old nieces. It’s inexpensive (we’re having a really rough year, with baby #2 arriving just after Christmas), a gift from the heart that will keep on growing with them all their lives, and can even pass on someday to their children.
- hi, about 5 years or so ago now, my nephew (now 18) was able to let me know that Really he did not want another sweatshirt or CD or 20 dollar bill, he Really wanted a batch of my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for his very own. Since then, on his birthday & Christmas (& yesterday as he is getting ready to go take a job in antarctica) that’s what he gets! i vary the boxes so it is a semi-surprise, but he is Always happy about it, & i am always happy know it’s something he actually wants!!!!
- Give gift certificates for haircuts, manicures, pedicures, perms, or anything “beauty shop” related. This would be especially appreciated if they can be held to use when getting ready for the prom! From Utah
- Food! Seriously. Most university students I know don’t have much time to cook. Bringing over something home-made that will last for a few days (like a casserole) will definitely be appreciated.Another gift is a service. Specifically, since we’re all starting to FLY, give the gift of a little organization. Many university students are notoriously messy and disorganized. They don’t want to be, but schoolwork makes them overwhelmed. They might even suffer from CHAOS. Help them take the first babystep to get out! – A university FLYbaby from Montreal
- Most teens I know are very particular about their “stuff.” If you want them to LIKE and USE what you get….give them a gift card to their favorite store–whether it be a skateboard shop, a bead store, a pet store for more aquarium fish, a book store, a clothing store, or an ice cream shop. Then let the teen pick out the gift. Dating can be expensive. If your teen is dating give him a “date kit” with movie tickets, gas money, a restaurant certificate, and a watch (so he doesn’t have an excuse to be late for curfew!) – “Flying and skiing in Utah”
- One year 8 of my cousins were teenagers and I was at a loss! I finally settled on what turned out to be a hit – I bought blank books and journals, completely undated, and these were used as diaries, sketchbooks, journals, poetry keepers, and inventory books, depending on the teen who received it. Since then I have given them with a bookmark attached or a gift certificate inside. One year it was book plates and bookmarks, once it was gift certificates with bookmarks clipped on, and once I found several nice ones that were either unlined or graphed. My favorite uncle always gave the kids books when we were little, and I try to carry this on. It’s not easy to pick a book for a teenager, though, and most teens like to choose everything for themselves so I find that bookstore gift certificates are very popular. -learning to fly in OH
- Lessons!!! I have three teenage daughters as well as three younger children. We can’t afford all those great art lessons, guitar lessons, tennis lessons…ect. We’ve asked grandparents to help out on those important creative and athletic activities. In addition we had one grandmother give us a family membership to the Museum and the other grandparent gave us tickets to the ballet and theater.. Movie theater tickets are a great idea as well. Thanks – A Flybaby in Georgia
- I gave a toolbox & every birthday & Christmas added tools to the box. They love using the tools as they received them, and when they leave home they’ll have a stocked toolbox to serve them for a lifetime (we bought Craftsman – check for the lifetime guarantee as these kids will have the tools a looong time:). If money is tight, get a few people to chip in together, as some of the tools can be a little pricey.
- For college students, a roll of quarters makes a wonderful gift. Also, phone cards and toiletries.
- Hi, last year we got our teen stock in the company that owns “the Hard Rock Cafe”. She thought that was soooo coool.We gave our teen-aged nephew a battery re-loader and reloadable batteries. He said it was a great present. We gave our teenage niece a gift certificate for a fancy hairdo. She cashed it in for her prom night. When I was a teen, as a going away present for college, I got a tool box with hammer and screwdriver set and other basic tools from my stepfather and it was a hit. ( pardon the pun) I was the only girl in my dormitory to have this with her upon arrival and it came in very handy. Made lots of friends right away!! That was 30 years ago and i still have the tool box, and still use its contents. We gave a bike- riding nephew a large reflective ( so people can see him better at night) tape band. ( the kind that sticks on to clothes) He still has some and still uses it, this is 10 years ago now. Our other niece got a “find the key with a whistle gadget…” She now got her best friends the same thing! Hope these ideas help folks find practical gifts for teens, especially as they seem to have everything these days. – flybaby in Austria